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Would-be thief pepper sprays fire engineer
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A Manteca Fire Department engineer was pepper-sprayed in the face by a man who was trying to steal a computer board from a fire truck parked outside the Manteca Boys & Girls Club during the telethon Monday night.

Manteca Police is asking the public to help in the apprehension of the suspect described as an adult white male who, at the time of the crime, was wearing a dark shirt, jeans, a dark A’s baseball cap and riding a “larger model, BMX-style bike.” He was last seen southbound on Acacia Street after the incident, according to police.

Manteca Fire Chief Kirk Waters said the fire engineer was transported by Manteca District Ambulance to the Doctors Hospital of Manteca where “they irrigated his eyes,” was treated and then released.

“He’s going to be okay. We sent him home so he lost a day’s work,” Waters said of the injured fire engineer whom he did not identify.

The fire chief gave the following account of what happened Monday night. The crew of the fire engine company dropped by the Boys and Girls Club for the first of the two-day annual telethon fund-raiser Monday night. They were going to help with the phone banks, he said. While inside the building, the fire engineer needed to go back to the truck which was parked on Alameda Street. While he was walking out to the fire truck, he noticed the door open and that somebody was inside the vehicle. The fire engineer literally caught the suspect in the act of stealing the CPU from the computer inside the fire truck. As the fire engineer tried to stop the thief, “the young man pepper-sprayed him right in the eye,” Waters said.

The suspect “didn’t get away with anything,” the fire chief added.

Police said the suspect was last seen southbound on Acacia Street.

CPU stands for a computer’s Central Processing Unit, or motherboard.

“They are MDTs – movable data terminals – to help us with information” contained in the laptops that are part of the equipment found inside the fire trucks which help fire personnel when responding to emergencies, explained Waters.

He described the act of the would-be thief as “pretty gutsy.”

Anyone with information about the suspect described above by police is asked to contact Manteca Police at (209) 456-8100 or the Manteca Fire Department at (209) 456-8300.